Why is Koenig Akbar still remembered

Qantara.de - Dialogue with the Islamic World

The Internet site "Rejected Princesses" lists princesses to whom, in a just world, Walt Disney would have dedicated a film long ago. One of the first places is Noor Inayat Khan, the gorgeous Sufi princess, musician, celebrated author and resistance fighter against the Nazi regime. But who was this woman whom little more than a plaque in the crematorium of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany commemorates?

Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan was born in Moscow on New Year's Day 1914. She is the eldest daughter of the American Ora Ray Baker and the famous Sufi and musician Hazrat Inayat Khans, who was teaching at the Moscow Conservatory at the time. She is also a great-great-granddaughter of Tipu Sultan, King of the Kingdom of Mysore, who waged three wars against the British colonial power.

At the beginning of the First World War, the family had to flee to London, where Noor's three siblings Vilayat, Hidayat and Khair-un-Nisa were born. Six years later she moved to the Paris suburb of Suresnes. A happy family life begins, full of spirituality, religious studies and international encounters. Even after the death of her father in 1927, after Noor took responsibility for her siblings, the "Fazal Mansil", the "House of Blessings" remained a safe home.

For the peaceful unity of all being

In Paris she received music training in harp and piano, among others with the famous composition teacher Nadia Boulanger, studied child psychology at the Sorbonne, wrote columns for the children's page of "Le Figaro" and published the book in 1939 Twenty Jataka Tales, a collection of didactic stories about previous incarnations of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama.

Here Khan already outlines the main features of her teaching, which revolves around the willingness to consistently stand up for the peaceful unity of all being, even if it is at the price of one's own life. She consequently set out to research all prophetic traditions and religious cultures, to uncover their common core and to overcome barriers to contact.

In 1940 the family was forced to flee to London from the National Socialist regime. In view of the reports of the inhumane conditions in the concentration camps, Noor and her siblings quickly decided to resist. Noor becomes a highly specialized radio operator for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a British special intelligence unit. Her brother Vilayat joins the Royal Navy.

During all this time, Noor continued to make history after history. Their capacity for absorption and their artistic power are inexhaustible. She works with an editing of the Chansons de gesture and from Reinecke Fox deep into European literary history, but also tells stories from outside of Europe Sheherazade, the wise King Akbar and the Indian musician Mira Bai. Japanese, Russian and Polish legends follow as well as stories from the Nordic and Greek myths. Three stories are dedicated to Christianity and especially to Christmas, which she loves.

A heart for heroes

In all of the stories, Noor shows a heart for heroes who take over and stumble over themselves again and again. She likes to talk about moral misconduct, and at the same time gives courage: the upbringing of the soul to conscientiously self-consciously is a long, never-ending process that is repeatedly interspersed with mistakes and setbacks, which can only be survived with a sufficient dose of humor.

Noor was flown out to Paris by the SOE in June 1943 and supported the Resistance there, temporarily acting as the last radio link between the French resistance and the Allies. As a pacifist, she is training to use a weapon, but still throws her pistol away in England.

Noor's brother Vilayat writes in his memoirs: "Sometimes I ask myself whether those who today lead a prosperous life, or at least enjoy the highly valued political freedom in our modern societies, even realize that they owe this to those people who are responsible for they died and were tortured. "

Tortured, abused, murdered

According to legend, Noor's beauty is her undoing. She is betrayed by an agent's sister, caught by the Gestapo and, after two attempts to escape, taken to a prison in Pforzheim. She is tortured there, has to suffer excruciating hunger and is presumably also sexually abused before she is finally taken to the Dachau concentration camp.

It is September 13, 1944 when SS men lead Noor Inayat Khan and three of her colleagues from the SOE in front of a wall near the crematorium in the Dachau concentration camp. The camp commandant, Eduard Weiter, and two SS officers are already waiting there. The women are ordered to kneel on the floor and hold hands. One after the other is killed by a shot in the neck. Her last word is said to have been "Liberté", according to Shribanu Basu in her impressive biography "Spy Princess".

Noor Inayat Khan was posthumously in England and France with the Georges Cross and the Croix de Guerre honored. In London's Gordon Square Garden, where she often stayed to write and read, she was the only Asian woman to date to have a statue erected, which was unveiled by Princess Royal Anne. Oscar winner Helen Mirren lent her voice to Noor in a documentary about her life's work. Muslims and non-Muslims around the world honor them as the epitome of spiritual chivalry. And who knows, maybe there will one day be a memorial in Germany for you or a Disney princess based on your model.

Noor Inayat Khan was particularly shocked by the persecution and mass murder of European Jews. When asked why God can allow so much evil and terrible in the world, she answers in her stories with the highest good with which her Creator endowed her: the freedom of man to choose the good, in her own words "that." Call of the one to the many ".

Her literary work and her non-violent resistance to the Nazi regime were a living consequence of her interreligious Sufism.

Eric Schumacher

© Qantara.de 2016

"King Akbar and his daughter" - stories from a world by Noor Inayat Khan, Verlag Heilbronn, 2016, 164 pages, translated by Karla Reimert, ISBN 978-3-936246-19-3